A Stamford author has her debut children’s book released today (Thursday February 18) and it’s already been endorsed by top novelist Michael Morpurgo.
Hannah Gold turned her hand to writing after working in the film and magazine industries and it’s been a dream come true for the author to see her novel – The Last Bear – which carries a strong environmental message, in print and receiving critical acclaim.
Peterborough Waterstones have given their backing to the The Last Bear which covers important ecological issues in an inspiring and empowering way for children.
Set in the Arctic it tells the story of a young girl’s unique relationship with a Polar Bear and her adventures as she seeks to save him and return him home. It’s a moving tale which aims to show children that no one is too young or insignificant to make a difference when it comes to saving our planet.
The book is brought to life with beautiful illustrations by Levi Pinfold, who won the Kate Greenaway medal for his picture book Black Dog.
The Stamford author’s debut has already received praise from the author of War Horse, Michael Morpurgo who says in the book’s notes – ‘This is an important first novel, important for us, for polar bears, for the planet. It is deeply moving, beautifully told, quite unforgettable’.
ESP caught up with Hannah to find out more about her inspiration…
ESP: How did you get into writing?
Hannah: “I actually can’t remember wanting to be anything different – except for a brief spell wanting to be a vet. But since I couldn’t bear the thought of having to put animals down, I decided to write about them instead – which is far less traumatic.
“It was something I’ve always wanted to do and through trial and error, and lots of persistence, I finally got my big break last year when I got offered a book deal for The Last Bear.”
Why write for children?
“I’m such a bookworm and will read anything and everything but whenever I stop to think about my favourite books – they’re always the ones from my childhood. The ones that made me feel happy or inspired or took me to magical new worlds where I could be anything I wanted to be. And that’s the feeling I want love to recreate for the children who read my book. I’d love to take them on this amazing adventure to the Arctic and leave them feeling inspired and empowered.”
What made you write about this particular topic, where did you get your inspiration?
“The Last Bear is a book very close to my heart and is basically about everything I love most in the world – nature, the planet and that unique, instinctive bond that especially exists between children and animals.
“Although it is first and foremost an adventure story, there is this a very important environmental message to the book and I set the book on a real-life Arctic Island called Bear Island – so-called because of the polar bears which once lived there. But these days, because of the melting ice-caps polar bears can no longer reach the island which bears their name. Once I discovered this – there really was only one story to tell – and that was April’s desperate quest to take Bear home.”
What is your key message – saving the planet/animals or the courage of the young girl?
“I feel like they go hand in hand, if I’m being perfectly honest. Climate change is such a huge, scary subject and often very overwhelming for anyone – let alone a child – to take in. So in order to face it, we need that dose of inner courage to believe that, no matter how small we are, we can make a difference.”
What do you hope youngsters, and perhaps their parents, will take from this?
“There’s a line in the book which a lot of the early reviewers seem to pick up on. It’s when April challenges someone who is questioning what impact she, as a little girl, can make. She replies: ‘But imagine if every person on the planet just did one single thing’.”
“And yes, imagine if everyone reading the book made one positive ecological change to their lives? We don’t have to sit and wait for someone else to make change – we can be that change first – whether it’s cutting down on our meat consumption, using less plastic, changing our energy supplier or even just planting a tree in your back garden. I hope it just inspires people to stand up for the planet and start fighting back.”
How important were Levi’s illustrations in bringing this story to life?
“Levi Pinfold is such an amazing illustrator and he’s created a cover which everyone just seems to love! He’s captured the touching friendship between April and Bear but also, in the interior artwork, portrayed the sweeping, bare feel of the Arctic too. He’s literally bringing the arctic to the reader and it’s such a compliment to my words.”
How did you feel about getting Michael Morpurgo’s endorsement of your debut novel?
“Michael Morpurgo has always been a huge inspiration for me as an author. The themes he covers in his books – such as nature, helping animals and our bond with animals – are those which deeply resonate with me. When I signed my deal with HarperCollins Children’s Books (who also publish him) I mentioned how much I admired his writing.
“Fast forward a few months and they asked me if there was anyone they would me to approach to endorse the book? Obviously there is never any guarantee but straight away I said that I would LOVE Michael Morpurgo. Things went very quiet and I put it out of my head, thinking he would be too busy… until one Friday afternoon I received an email from my editor with the subject header: Endorsement.
“And inside was his quote. It was the best start to a weekend ever. Since then, things with the book have just gone from strength to strength.”
The Last Bear, Hannah Gold with illustrations by Levi Pinfold, £12.99, HarperCollins Children’s Books. Also available in ebook and audio.